What Does it Mean to Pay Homage to Someone?

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The death of those who matter to us can leave us feeling a bit lost and at odds with how life goes on from here. It's a natural part of grief to realize that we are missing someone terribly. That powerful emotion may make us want to do something active to commemorate their lives.

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In the aftermath of a loss, you may feel the need to speak to others or perform an act of some kind. This choice showcases how much you honor and value your loved one. Paying homage to your loved one is one way to do this.

The Meaning of Paying Homage

Homage comes from a historical context. In the distant past, paying homage was a show of deference or surrender. It showed you were connected to and thus loyal to a feudal lord. This bond was both a physical act (usually kneeling and pledging) and a symbolic reminder of your connection.

While the word is no longer used in that context, paying homage is still a sign of respect and care. It's often offered to or on behalf of someone who has passed away, or a reminder of past fame. People pay homage, for instance, to great musicians even if they are still alive and simply not as renowned anymore.

Etymology

Homage comes from the same root word for man. Paying homage in Middle English referred to a connection made between a vassal and a lord in feudal society.

Because of that, it makes sense that “-age” means an act or process or result or state, and the prefix “hom-” refers to a man. It was a state/arrangement into which men entered, a connection of loyalty and surrender.

Other ways you can say “pay homage”

Other ways that people refer to paying homage are “paying tribute,” “commemorate,” “honor,” or “memorialize.”

They all refer to different aspects of showing honor, often for someone who has passed away. The ways that people pay homage vary and new ways are introduced all the time.

ยป MORE: What are the practical steps to take after a loss? We've got you covered with this checklist.

 

Examples of Paying Homage to Someone

Paying homage has changed a lot since it was a bond between feudal lords and their peasants. Now, it can refer to a wide variety of ways to commemorate or celebrate the life of someone you loved.  In the past, no one paid homage in memorial Facebook posts.

Now, this method is a common way to commemorate the death of someone important to you. Homage, in its many forms, is often a path to closure and moving forward. Still, the person you lost is forever a part of you, so parts of homage may continue long after a death.

Here are some examples of common forms of homage.

And if you're interested in unique ways to honor a loved one who passed away, you can consider a custom urn from a store like Foreverence or even have a memorial diamond made from ashes with a company like Eterneva.

Give a speech or eulogy

One of the first ways that many people pay homage to their loved ones is through a speech or eulogy (check out some short eulogy examples) shared during a funeral service. This is a moment when many of the mourning family and friends will value a beautiful memory or anecdote.

Their grief will become more collectively shared when you choose to speak about the deceased’s beautiful and unique qualities. These speeches often focus on the most positive or memorable qualities of the person.

Write a song or poem

When speaking is hard to do, artistically minded people may consider writing a song or poem. Both of these forms of expression allow for unconventional wording and phrases. Choosing these abstract writing genres may get you closer to the deep, hard-to-say feelings.

This song or poem, in being beautiful, is a tribute to the meaning that you found in this person. Sometimes, people choose to play someone else's song at a concert and say that it’s "for (loved one's name).”

Create artwork 

Like a song or poem, a painting or sculpture can often allow you to express pain, grief, or missing someone. If you don't express yourself verbally, this might be a good path to closure.

You can create something abstract or concrete, like a colorful painting or a portrait. Every time you see it, you can remember the positive memory of the person you loved.

Put their name on a scholarship, building, or another item

Another form of paying homage is to name something after a friend or family member who died. This happens on a big scale with scholarship funds or buildings on college campuses. You don't have to make a grand gesture, though.

It also happens on bricks at museums, on park benches, and in other commemorative places throughout communities. Consider how a small donation to a cause they loved could be a good form of homage.

Credit their influence when you succeed

Many people pay homage when accepting awards or at their crowning moments. They choose to take less credit themselves and give credit to the person who inspired them.

If you’re in a position to do so, you may feel a positive connection from paying homage through crediting someone else for your success.

Light candles or other ceremonies

In many churches as well as at funeral ceremonies, the lighting of a candle serves as a reminder of those who have died.

While a very small form of homage, creating some form of ceremony or remembering a loved one while lighting a candle is yet another way to remember them.

Make amends with others close to them

One way some people choose to pay homage is when they bury the hatchet, or forgive those who have wronged them in the past.

If you have a nemesis who is still alive and was also close to the loved one lost, it can be an homage let go of past grudges in your loved one’s honor

Tend to their affairs or their gravesite

For people who are less verbally or artistically expressive or who simply prefer it, tending to the estate and settling the finances for a loved one can be an act of homage, a commitment to caring for what needs to be done.

This is also true of family members and friends who choose to place flowers at a loved one’s gravesite or who make sure the area around the gravesite stays clean and clear.

Create a photo display

Another way to pay homage is to gather some of your favorite photographic memories of the person and create an album or a photo wall in your home. Seeing the person reminds you of them, but it also becomes a testament to others who visit your home about how important this person was to you.

Make a life change

Another way that people commemorate each other is through choosing to improve their lives in some way. They may choose a health behavior, something that their loved one wanted them to do, or they may take a trip they always meant to take.

When someone you care about a lot passes away, it can put into sharp relief that life is short. By choosing to do something meaningful, you can honor the memory of someone who always encouraged you to live life to the fullest.

Homage in Daily Life

While a tribute speech at a funeral is absolutely homage, you can see that homage can be paid in many aspects of one’s grief journey. You may choose a formal setting like a eulogy or an informal reminder when you “pour one out” for a loved one. 

Other people will never publically speak or acknowledge their grief but will pay homage by doing the planning for a beautiful memorial service

Paying homage to a friend or family member may remind you of what you’d want your service or memorial to be like. If you're ready to start end of life planning, Cake is here with the tools you need.


Sources

  1. “Homage and fealty.” Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica. britannica.com/topic/homage

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